Perhaps one of the best quotations is “the thing that you do best with the least amount of effort is your gift from God.” Steve Harvey, a popular comedian, said that, and when one thinks of “The Story of Caedmon,” told by Bede, that quotation plays a big role. It is a great story of inspiration. Many have experienced failures in their lives or absolute pressure to succeed at social functions, and just have not been able to do so. Caedmon feels overwhelmed and desperately wants to satisfy his peers, but cannot because he feels that he is not able to perform, as most people feel at times.
Caedmon cannot sing songs. He believes that he cannot sing a single note, and so he does not perform. As a matter of fact, when the brothers have feasts and take turns singing, he becomes terrified, leaves the table, and goes into the cattle shed that he is guarding: “Once when he left a feast like this, he went to the cattle shed, which he had been assigned the duty of guarding that night” (Norton, 25). As he sleeps, he dreams, and as he dreams, he comes to an epiphany; he becomes inspired.
He has a dream that a person is standing next to him and asks him to sing. He refuses at first because he still feels that he cannot sing even if his life depends on it. The person standing next to him, though, does not give up and asks him to forget about everything, and just sing. “Sing about the Creation,” he says (Norton, 25). And so, Caedmon begins to sing. When he wakes up, he remembers everything, and writes more verses praising God. He tells everyone about his gift from God and sings to them. He turns people’s life stories and stories of sacred Scripture into great songs. He becomes the greatest singer of his time.
Caedmon, one of the lay brothers in a monastery, learns to compose religious songs: “Whatever he learned of Holy Scripture… he turned it into the sweetest and most moving poetry in his own language” (Norton, 25). He does this with such passion and such innate skill that no one is able to emulate him. They are unable to do this because no one taught Caedmon how to compose these songs; everything comes naturally to him. One of the great points of this story is that he gets his gift from God, and he is able to tell the world about God through his songs.
In relation to Caedmon, all have received a gift from God, things they do with no effort at all. Writers, singers, and actors are the most obvious examples of people in the occupations they were meant for. Of course, it takes a lot of work to succeed with the talents God has given us. It would be completely foolery to think that one will succeed with just wishful thinking. Sure, He lays a helping hand, but most of the work will come from us, if we really want to succeed. Caedmon, himself, was exposed to songs all his life, so it’s no wonder that he becomes such a great performer. But everyone has a gift and it’s up to us to find that gift inside of us which is dying to come out and to express it and do what God has wished for us. Once we have found the gift, we can all become like Caedmon.
David, Alfred. “The Story of Caedmon.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
Ed. Stephen Greenblatt and M.H. Abrams. 8th Edition. New York: Norton &
Company, 2006. 24-27.